The New External Wall Review Process

Following on from Advice Note 14, mortgage lenders are increasingly refusing to lend on properties that make use of combustible materials within the external wall or facade construction. Especially in high-rise buildings, if the seller cannot confirm the property adequately meets the standards following on from the Building Amendment Regulations 2018, there have been instances of the surveyor valuing the property at £0 until the seller has been able to prove otherwise. This guidance has created an array of issues for leaseholders and residents, as many have been unable to sell their properties until evidence has been provided that the external wall system complies with Advice Note 14. The problem affects thousands of apartments that have become unsaleable, as this advice impacts any high-rise buildings that would have used materials other than aluminium. 

New Process of Valuation: Role of Fire Safety Professionals

As a result, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors(RICS) and several industry bodies have agreed on a sector-wide valuation process to overcome the issues that hold up the sale of homes based on Advice Note 14. The new process will now require the building to be checked by a professional fire safety expert, who will assess the materials used in the building and provide lenders with advice on whether the building is safe. The fire expert will now be responsible for determining the risk and advising on whether or not the external wall system of the building is safe. Further, it will be the fire safety professional who will offer advice on whether on not the building requires remedial work. All of this will then guide the valuation. 

EWS Certification

The building owners will now be required to appoint a qualified fire safety professional to carry out the review and provide an EWS certification to the building. The certificate will indicate that the building is found to have no combustible materials to the external walls. Lenders can then use this certification to provide a valuation. The EWS certificate is valid for five years. 

However, if the fire safety expert discovers that the external wall system is not of limited combustibility, a more intrusive investigation will need to be commissioned by the building owner to determine whether remedial action is required on the block. It is important to note that combustible materials such as high-pressure laminate and timber cladding if used would likely need to remediated as Advice Note 14 calls on building owners to remove these materials. 

This new process is established to ensure that compliant buildings and their residents don't suffer unnecessarily. It aims to streamline the process for managers of existing high-rise buildings and offers clarity. However, it is crucial to seek remedial action if combustible materials such as high-pressure laminate and timber cladding are used in the construction of an existing building.